Bur Oak dedication, Hokie Bugfest festival to honor legacy of William Alwood
The Virginia Tech entomology community will come together on Oct. 14 and 15 for Alwood Days, a series of events to celebrate the life and legacy of William Bradford Alwood. Alwood — a former Virginia Tech faculty member (1888-1904) and internationally known scientist — died in 1946.
“During the early days of our institution, there were a number of remarkable people who responded to the call to establish the institute and the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station. Of those individuals, perhaps William Bradford Alwood is the least-recognized,” said Mike Weaver, professor of entomology and director of Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs.
“Over the past few years, we have discovered a lost history in the university archives and elsewhere that documents the incredible career of Professor Alwood. Our efforts in October and beyond are to let the world know how important W. B. Alwood was to Virginia Tech and to take steps to keep his memory alive for all time,” said Weaver.
The festivities will begin Friday, Oct. 14, at 4 p.m., with the dedication of the bur oak on the Drillfield in front of Burruss Hall. The large tree will be dedicated to Alwood, who planted it sometime after 1895. The event will also include the groundbreaking for a permanent memorial — the Alwood Plaza.
Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger will present a special citation of recognition, issued by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, to the Alwood family. Dean Alan Grant of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and entomology Professor Michael J. Weaver will speak briefly during the ceremony. Weaver is writing a book about Alwood.
Elizabeth White, executive secretary of the Virginia State Horticultural Society, will also be in attendance. Alwood founded the society in 1897 in an effort to save the Virginia fruit industry from an invasive insect pest. It continues to be a force in the industry.
Encorps, the Virginia Tech Regimental Band String Ensemble, will provide music.
A fundraising dinner at The Inn at Virginia Tech will follow the ceremony.
On Saturday, Oct. 15, the Department of Entomology will host the first annual Hokie Bugfest from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Held on the Virginia Tech Ag Quad behind Price Hall, Bugfest will promote the fun and excitement of entomology to honor Alwood. All exhibits and events are free.
Activities include performances by the Alberti Flea Circus, tours of campus trees, and screenings of the film “Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo.” An art contest will encourage young artists to create a bug-related piece of art. Contest winners will be announced at 3 p.m., just before the movie screening.
Dozens of hands-on exhibits will give children and adults a chance to learn about entomology, including some not-too-popular arthropods like bed bugs, cockroaches, termites, spiders, and stink bugs. Other activities focus on mask making, cockroach art, high-speed photography of insect movement, insect robotics, and demonstrations about fly-fishing, beekeeping, and aquatic insects. Children will win prizes and bug stickers by participating in exhibit activities and can receive official junior entomologist certificates.
The HokieBird will greet guests at 11 a.m. The Bug Café and gift shop will sell food and other merchandise.
A complete list of activities and parking information is available at the Hokie Bugfest website.
This event is being held in collaboration with the entomology department’s student-run organization, the W. B. Alwood Society. Money raised will fund future Bugfests and other entomological society activities.
Event sponsors include: Virginia Cooperative Extension/4-H Youth Development, DuPont, Superior Exterminating, Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, Fralin Life Sciences Initiative, Dow AgroSciences, University Bookstore, WDBJ7, Cumulus Broadcasting of the New River Valley, Bug Man Exterminating, Tangent Outfitters, and Macaroni Kid of the New River Valley.
William Bradford Alwood
Professor Alwood was an early pioneer of pest management and fruit culture. He is credited with laying the foundation for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and for developing the horticulture and pest management disciplines. Because of his efforts, Virginia Tech students are able to study horticulture, plant pathology, and entomology. Today, more than 2,600 undergraduate and 400 graduate students are pursing degrees.
Former Virginia Tech President Julian Burruss once noted that Alwood should forever be remembered for what he did to assist the university in its early days. He is regarded as one of the university's greatest scientists.
Alwood’s international status as a researcher brought recognition to the new and developing Virginia Tech. The French government recognized Alwood by for his viticulture leadership by awarding him the prestigious Merite Agricolé medal in 1907.
After leaving Virginia Tech in 1904, Alwood moved to Charlottesville where he established an enological laboratory that was later incorporated into the U.S. Department of Agriculture Bureau of Chemistry; he became its chief of enological investigations.
Alwood left several other important legacies at Virginia Tech: He was integral in establishing the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, and in 1927, he donated his vast personal library to Virginia Tech — a collection still being used today.